Hi all, my name’s Martyn Sibley, JT Hughes, who, as you all may know, are the official Motability dealer in Shropshire for Honda, Hyundai and Mitsubishi, have kindly invited me to write for their blog, so I can share some of my knowledge and experience with other disabled people, with a view to inspiring, informing, and changing the world for the better.
Since the government introduced Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in April 2013, almost half of those who have been reassessed have lost their Motability vehicle. So what should you do if you want to appeal a decision about your mobility benefit, and where can you go for advice and advocacy in the Shropshire area?
I was first assessed for the Motability Scheme when I was 16 years old. I received the highest level of DLA support, which was split into mobility and care components, and received my van - a green Mercedes with a number of adaptations - in January 2004, during my second year at Coventry University.
Unlike the majority of the population who learn to drive in a driving school vehicle, I had to get my van before I could have any lessons. This is because it would’ve been impossible for me to learn in a vehicle that hadn’t been adapted to my specific needs.
Not only would I have been unable to reach the pedals, I wouldn’t have been able to turn the steering wheel either, which clearly wouldn’t have got me very far! So after a few false starts and a lot of nerves, I passed my test in May 2004 and I was ready to hit the road.
So what exactly is the Motability Scheme, why are so many cuts taking place, and how are these cuts affecting British drivers who require an adapted vehicle?
The Motability Scheme was set up by Lord Goodman with full parliamentary support in 1977 and registered as a charity so that it could award grants and raise money through charitable donations and fundraising efforts.
The Scheme leased its first cars to disabled customers in July 1978 and since then it has awarded over 4 million vehicles, including scooters, powered wheelchairs and vans. As well as providing disabled people with a leased vehicle, the hire fee also covers routine maintenance, insurance and breakdown cover. A full package of benefits to ensure that users can afford the cost of running their vehicle on a day-to-day basis.
So why are so many people losing their mobility benefits and dropping off of the Motability Scheme?
In 2013, the Government introduced Personal Independence Payments (PIP), a new disability benefit that is set to fully replace DLA, though over a period of years, depending on when people’s current DLA awards expire. It is possible to switch to PIP before your DLA award expires, but Motability are not recommending this to their clients, as they may not qualify for the higher rate of PIP that is required in order to keep your mobility benefit.
The main problem then, is that the criteria for being awarded the highest rate of PIP are very different from the ones for DLA, so not as many people are meeting them, and are therefore being put on a lower tier and having to return their Motability vehicle.
Being told that you have to return the vehicle that has been integral to your independence is undoubtedly a shocking experience, especially as vehicles have to be returned within seven weeks of receiving your decision letter from the DWP.
Thankfully I am still in receipt of DLA at the highest level, so currently I can keep my vehicle, but I am pretty fearful of the day when I inevitably have to make the switch to PIP.
I rely on my car for so much, including work and travel, and having it taken away for any reason would drastically reduce my independence. For people who rely on their Motability vehicle to get to work everyday, taking away their method of transportation may lead to them losing their job, which seems particularly counterproductive, when the Government are also supposedly encouraging disabled people into work.
In order to defend the fact that nearly 14,000 people have lost their Motability vehicles since PIP was introduced, the Government is keen to push the fact that there is an appeal process in place, and if people want to challenge the decision, then they can.
This is clearly not a very helpful approach for disabled people and it seems the Government may be relying on the fact that many people will feel daunted by the appeal process and not bother to see it through. The statistics though speak for themselves; with claimants winning 60% of PIP related appeals to date.
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So, where should you turn if you wish to appeal your PIP award decision, and win back your Motability vehicle?
There are a number of steps that you have to go through in order to appeal a PIP decision. Firstly, you need to get in contact with the DWP either by post or via the phone number on your award letter and ask them to carry out a Mandatory Reconsideration. You need to contact the DWP within one month of receiving your decision letter, otherwise you won’t be eligible, and you need to include evidence to support your argument against the decision.
If this doesn’t get the result that you hoped for, you can then move onto an appeal, which again has to be started within one month of receiving your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice. To start an appeal, you need to fill in an online or printed form known as a SSCS1, and again supply evidence to back up your appeal.
If all of this sounds overly complicated, there are charities and advisory bodies within Shropshire and throughout the UK, that can offer you support and guide you through the appeal process.
1. Shropshire Peer Counselling and Advocacy Services
PCAS provide advocacy for disabled adults and will provide you with an advocate that will meet you in your own home or another place of your choosing and support you until your problem has been resolved. PCAS can be contacted on 01691 658008 or via email: email@example.com
2. A4U: Action Advice Advocacy for disabled people
A4U provide independent and impartial advice, legal advice and advocacy on all disability issues and run a helpline for people in need of support. A4U can be contacted on 01743 539201 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org - Updated - A4U may not be able to provide support due to Government cuts but worth checking.
3. The Disability Law Service
DLS provides free legal advice over the phone, as well as offering a range of free factsheets on their website. DLS can be contacted on 0207 7919800
4. Citizens Advice
Citizens Advice offers free, independent and confidential advice to everyone in the UK, and can be contacted by phone, online or in person at your local Citizens Advice Bureau. You can search for your local branch and find contact details here. Adviceline England: 03444 111 444 - Updated - CAB may not be able to provide support due to Government cuts but worth checking.
With 60% of appeals resulting in a win, it really is worth appealing, no matter how deflated you may feel after receiving a negative decision. When I inevitably have to switch over to PIP, I fully intend to fight if I receive a decision that I believe is unfair, though obviously I have my fingers crossed that this won’t happen. My Motability vehicle has really opened up the world for me, and the scheme has proved to be a lifeline for so many disabled people since the 1970s. It is vital then, that we do everything we can to protect it, so that others can benefit from it in the future.
If you’d like to share your Motability stories with JT Hughes, why not post your comments below or on the JT Hughes Facebook page.